Who lived in the Twelfth Ward in the 1850s?

We began with a dataset drawn from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, held by the New York Public Library and digitized by Ancestry.com.  This consisted of 180 people with an address in Bloomingdale, Harlem, Manhattanville or Carmansville, all north of 86th Street on the island of Manhattan, who were associated with 202 distinct accounts, some jointly held.  

The vast majority of those living in the Twelfth Ward who opened accounts with the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank between 1850-1860 were natives of Ireland. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Livy Wren based on the Emigrant Saving Bank records of the 176 of the 180 account holders who indicated their county of origin .

This chart shows that the majority of emigrants in this sample came from the southeastern provinces of Leinster and Munster, with the fewest coming from the north and west of Ireland. This generally aligns with patterns of migration during this period, with fewer emigrants coming from the fairly economically stable province of Ulster and the poorer counties of Connacht. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Rowan Robertson-Smith, based on 142 accounts for whom province of origin was reported.

Emigration from Ireland to New York of Irish 12th Ward Residents and EISB account holders encompassed nativity from twenty-eight of the thirty-two Irish counties, with all but Donegal, Sligo, Wexford, and Wicklow being represented. Cork and King’s were the most common places of origin followed by Tipperary and Cavan. Certain factors in individual counties influenced residents to emigrate. These included percentages of laborers (densely populated in parts of Cork, King’s, and Tipperary), levels of destitution, and the prevalence of evictions (a particular problem in Cavan). Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart created by Samantha R. Haddad, based on 142 accounts.

Of the 146 Irish-born EISB account holders living in the 12th Ward between 1850 – 1860, approximately 60% were men and 40% were women. While male account holders were equally likely to be married or single at the time they opened their accounts, women were more likely to be unmarried, either because they were single or widowed. However, in terms of overall marriage rates, women who were currently or who had at some previous point been married had a slight majority. A small number of men and women married at some point after they had opened their accounts. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Gina Marie Guadagnino, based on 146 accounts.

The majority (51%) of those natives of Ireland living in the 12th Ward who were depositing money with the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in its first decade of operation had emigrated during the Famine, with another third in the immediate post-Famine years. The average length of time between year of arrival and opening a saving account was 8 years. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Marion R. Casey, based on 138 accounts for whom date of arrival was reported.

Liverpool was by far the most frequently used port of departure for Irish emigrants in the 12th Ward sample. For Irish EISB account holders who lived above 86th Street in Manhattan, the docks of Liverpool were only distantly followed by Glasgow and Cork in popularity. Other places such as Dundalk and Dublin each had two passengers leave from the 12th Ward sample, and Sligo and Galway each had one. Due to its’ involvement with the slave trade, privateering and the trade in American cotton, Liverpool was a wealthy port city, that by the mid-nineteenth century was ready to take on a new industry – the movement of Irish emigrants. The infrastructure to move large numbers of people was there. From its’ buildings to the ships, Liverpool was equipped to fill the old slave trade offices of Goree Piazza with shipbrokers, commission agents, provision merchants, emigration agents, and porters to support the emigrant economy. Before Irish emigrants even left Liverpool, they were already a part of the tapestry of the local economy through the pubs, shops, and boarding houses they used before embarking on a ship to start their new life in America. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart created by Samantha R. Haddad, based on 73 accounts.

Although the Famine appears to have been a motivating factor for most of the Twelfth Ward Irish sample, 54% actually emigrated after 1850. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Marion R. Casey, based on 138 accounts for whom date of arrival was reported.

This chart illustrates the number of accounts opened per year at the Emigrant Savings Bank by residents of the 12th Ward between 1850 and 1860. It shows that, generally, more accounts were opened annually over this decade. This could suggest that the bank rose in popularity throughout this time, that customers were more willing to travel the roughly 6-mile (or greater) journey to lower Manhattan to patronize the bank, and that more people wanted bank accounts by the end of the decade than at the start. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Rowan Robertson-Smith, based on the EISB test book records of 146 Irish born 12th Ward residents.

Of the 58 Irish-born female EISB account holders, the majority of them were employed. With few exceptions, the Irish women residing in the Twelfth Ward in the middle of the nineteenth century were almost equally divided between those keeping their own homes and those keeping the homes of their employers. Of the 28 domestic workers, 4 were housekeepers, 2 were nurses, 1 was a laundress, 1 was a cook, and the remaining 20 were unspecified servants. The 3 shopkeepers or dealers included a liquor dealer, a grocery and liquor dealer, and a shopkeeper. The 26 account holders who listed no paid profession were almost entirely comprised of homemakers, with the exception of one account holder who may have been a minor child; an elder sibling opened the account in her name. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Gina Marie Guadagnino, based on 58 accounts held by women.

There was a significant variance in the occupations for men in the 12th Ward between 1850 and 1860. The most common were day labor and building trades. While the 12th Ward was still quite rural in this period, railroad and other building projects were likely significant sources of employment for men. Other notable groups were clergymen, gardeners, ironworkers, clerks, and shopkeepers. Source: Database created Spring 2020 at New York University from the records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, 1850-1860. Chart by Rowan Robertson-Smith, based on 108 accounts held by men.